Overview

Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that occur most often on your fingers or hands. Rough to the touch, common warts also often feature a pattern of tiny black dots, which are small, clotted blood vessels.

Common warts are caused by a virus and are transmitted by touch. It can take a wart as long as two to six months to develop after your skin has been exposed to the virus. Common warts are usually harmless and eventually disappear on their own. But many people choose to remove them because they find them bothersome or embarrassing.

Symptoms

Common warts usually occur on your fingers or hands and may be:

  • Small, fleshy, grainy bumps
  • Flesh-colored, white, pink or tan
  • Rough to the touch
  • Sprinkled with black pinpoints, which are small, clotted blood vessels

When to see a doctor

See your doctor for common warts if:

  • The growths are painful or change in appearance or color
  • You've tried treating the warts, but they persist, spread or recur
  • The growths are bothersome and interfere with activities
  • You aren't sure whether the growths are warts
  • You are an adult and numerous warts begin to appear, which may indicate the immune system is malfunctioning

Causes

Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is quite common and has more than 150 types, but only a few cause warts on your hands. Some strains of HPV are acquired through sexual contact. Most forms, however, are spread by casual skin contact or through shared objects, such as towels or washcloths. The virus usually spreads through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or a scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.

Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.

Risk factors

People at higher risk of developing common warts include:

  • Children and young adults, because their bodies may not have built up immunity to the virus
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or people who've had organ transplants

Prevention

To reduce your risk of common warts:

  • Avoid direct contact with warts. This includes your own warts.
  • Don't pick at warts. Picking may spread the virus.
  • Don't use the same emery board, pumice stone or nail clipper on your warts as you use on your healthy skin and nails. Use a disposable emery board.
  • Don't bite your fingernails. Warts occur more often in skin that has been broken. Nibbling the skin around your fingernails opens the door for the virus.
  • Groom with care. And avoid brushing, clipping or shaving areas that have warts. If you must shave, use an electric razor.

May 19, 2018
References
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  4. Kermott CA, et al. Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies. 2nd ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
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